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Cheri Keaggy - Singing A New Song

  • Updated Feb 01, 2002
Cheri Keaggy - Singing A New Song

Although this past year found {{Cheri Keaggy}} releasing her long-awaited first worship album, if everything had gone as originally planned, it might have been her very first ever album - arriving even before her acclaimed pop releases.

But Keaggy was signed to Sparrow Records as a solo artist, and not as a worship leader, so this dream album had to wait. "I came out of a worship leader role at a church in Southern California, and consequently, a lot of my very first songs were worship choruses that we would sing together in church."

Each of Keaggy's albums already contain praise songs, which serve to reflect her background. But these songs were recorded in a manner befitting a solo artist, instead of one tailored for the worship context. "We've always been thinking that one day we're going to do sort of a specialty project - in between my more AC kind of records - and put all of those worship songs on one project, and record them in such a way that they'd really suit the church praise team setting."

Keaggy envisioned this release as sounding contemporary enough for fans that are drawn to today's exploding new wave of contemporary praise music, but not too modern that it rubs fans of traditional praise and worship the wrong way. "We, of course, wanted it to sound current-with all this contemporary worship that is sweeping the nation-but we didn't want to be too cool, or too slick that it would scare people. We wanted the Sunday morning guitar guy," she explains, "to get excited about playing this too."

Even the Keaggy fan, with a complete discography who is expecting "new" music from this "new" album, will find three previously unreleased songs to pour over from this collection. They are "Reign On Me," "Pour Out Your Love," and "Humble Me."

While Keaggy had the mindset of worship leaders foremost in her mind when tracking this release, she certainly doesn't want "everyday listeners" to get the wrong impression that this particular project is therefore not for them. "It's for anyone who wants to put on an album that they know is going to be praise and worship; that's going to lift them up, and that's going to get them focusing on the Lord while they're just cleaning house, or on a long road trip."

When it came time to choose the producers for this special album, it was an easy choice for Keaggy to make. In addition to working again with her husband, Eddie Keaggy, Cheri also brought in worship music veterans Tommy Coomes and Billy Batstone. Each of these men had been very supportive of Cheri and her music; back when her very first demo tape was a simple collection of worship songs. In fact, she had originally planned to have them help her record her debut album as a worship release, but - as history now attests - her record company had other ideas. "My husband and I had made this worship tape when I was writing for our little church. I'd written ten praise songs, and we'd put them on this little tape - most of which have since gone on my (various) records."

While she was grateful for the encouragement she'd initially received from the folks in her local church, it was an extra special boost to her confidence when Coomes and Batstone heard her music and told her how much they appreciated it. "My husband took that tape to Batstone, and he was just amazed and said 'You've got to give this to Tommy Coomes.' Then he took it to Tommy, and he said much the same thing. He was so excited. These are long time veterans - people who live and breathe music day in and day out," she continues. "So for them to be moved or touched in a special way by my very first attempts at songwriting, was just a huge encouragement to me as a budding songwriter."

In fact, Coomes and Batstone were even interested in using some of these first songs for an upcoming Maranatha Praise Band release. Additionally, Vineyard was also asking her about recording some of her songs. But before Keaggy made her songs available for these projects, Eddie sent a tape to the Sparrow people, because he really believed strongly in her prospects as a solo artist. "There was just this tiny little thing that was saying, 'Well, what if I'm supposed to be singing these songs?'"

That little voice was prophetic indeed, since there was a large audience of people out there who wanted to hear Keaggy sing her own songs. But the desire to record that worship album never quit buzzing around in her head.

When this dream project finally became a reality, Keaggy did not forget how much Coomes and Baststone had helped her in the beginning. "When it came around time to think about making this record, my husband was saying, 'Wouldn't it be awesome to have them involved?' Their years of experience, the friendship that was already in existence, and their love and understanding of worship material and being able to grasp what we were trying to do with this record, seemed to make a lot of sense for choosing them as producers." The result: "It was really an enjoyable experience."

It may seem strange for listeners who have come to treasure Keaggy's singing voice to learn that being a professional singer was never in her plans. "I never really considered myself a singer at all. As a child, I loved to sing. I was that type of child who would just sing all the time. But I never took voice lessons. I wasn't the girl doing all the church solos."

Instead, Keaggy focused her attention upon playing music. "Piano was my forte growing up. I had classical lessons, and would play recitals, talent shows and a church offertory now and then. But singing was just so secondary. I looked at myself as the accompanist. I was playing for the concert choir at school. I was playing for the soloists in the talent shows."

But, as her church grew to understand how to effectively create worship music, they came upon the notion that it would help to have a front person; one who would prompt the congregation through the worship experience by either praying or reading scripture. "They eventually offered me that position, and through that, my husband began to say, 'You should sing more. You have a really good voice.' So I started to do my own little solos, with Amy Grant tracks and stuff. I never thought I'd make a record or anything, but looking back, I can see how the Lord was preparing me for a more national concert ministry, and being in a local church was such a wonderful nurturing safe place to do that."

With ==There is Joy in the Lord==, Keaggy has come full circle; back to the music she was making when she was leading worship. Only now, her congregation is a much larger one.